A new regulatory model for Australia’s National Broadband Network is one step closer after a telecommunications industry roundtable last week brought together NBN Co, broadband retailers, industry groups, consumer representatives and government.
The ACCC called the roundtable after NBN Co announced it would be seeking to revise its special access undertaking, which is a key part of the regulation that governs the prices NBN Co can charge retailers.
“Getting the regulatory framework for the NBN right is a key priority for the ACCC this year. This roundtable was the first step in that process and it was pleasing to see stakeholders coming together to discuss the issues in an open, constructive way,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.
“It is clear that the NBN pricing construct is a key issue for stakeholders, and the Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) component of NBN’s pricing model was a particular focus of discussion.”
Under the current regulation, broadband retailers pay CVC charges in order to access a certain amount of bandwidth. Most participants called for the removal of CVC charges, while some proposed pricing models that had a reduced CVC component.
“There was general agreement that a future regulatory framework should encourage efficient use of, and investment in, the network infrastructure. Similarly, participants agreed that arrangements should support a range of retail offerings that represent value for users,” Ms Brakey said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of access to reliable broadband for businesses and households, and the roundtable event covered measures to support access and affordability, particularly for low income consumers.”
To help frame the discussion at the roundtable, the ACCC issued a short discussion paper to participants ahead of the event. The discussion paper is available on the ACCC website.
The ACCC is also preparing a summary of the key issues raised at the roundtable, for release in the coming weeks.
NBN Co’s carriage services are taken to be declared under Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which provides access seekers a statutory right to access the services and enables the ACCC to regulate the terms and conditions of access, such as price, to apply where the terms of access cannot be agreed.
A special access undertaking provides the access provider, in this case NBN Co, the means to propose the regulated access terms to apply and related matters for acceptance by the ACCC.
To encourage open discussion, the roundtable was conducted under Chatham House rule. The ACCC will not be attributing comments to individual participants.